At common law, a release was a gratuitous waiver by a person of a right of action accruing to him from a breach of contract or other obligation. No consideration was required, but it was necessary that the release should be under seal.61 The effect of a seal as dispensing with a consideration has now been abolished in most jurisdictions in this country, and in these jurisdictions an agreement, even though under seal, may not operate to discharge a right of action unless it is supported by a consideration.62 A release, being a species of contract, may be rendered invalid by any matter that would affect the validity of an ordinary contract, such as incapacity of parties, mistake, or fraud.63
58 Webster v. Cecil, 30 Beav. 62; Hennessey v. Wool worth, 128 U. S. 438, 9 Sup. Ct 100, 32 L. Ed. 500; Conger v. Railroad Co., 120 N. Y. 29, 23 N. E. 983; Mansfield v. Sherman, 81 Me. 3G5, 17 Atl. 300; Combs v. Scott, 7G Wis. 6G2, 45 N. W. 532. Upon an anticipatory breach and suit brought before the time of performance, specific performance may be decreed, but only in the manner and at the time provided by the contract. Miller v. Jones, 68 W. Va. 526, 71 S. E. 248, 36 L. It. A. (N. S.) 408. See "Specific Performance," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 8; Cent. Dig. §§ 17, 18.
59 Willard v. Tayloe, 8 Wall. 557, 19 L. Ed. 501. See "Specific Performance" Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 8; Cent. Dig. §§ 17, 18.
60 Anson, Cont (4th Ed.) 314.
61 Mitchell v. Hawley, 4 Denio (N. T.) 414, 47 Am. Dec. 260; Jackson v. Stack-hsuse, 1 Cow. (N. Y.) 122, 13 Am. Dec. 514; Shaw v. Pratt, 22 Pick. (Mass.) 308; Hunt v. Brown, 146 Mass. 253, 15 N. E. 587; Ingersoll v. Martin, 58